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I see it happen all the time. Parents love their children so much, they don’t want to force them to part with a single thing. So for every birthday and holiday, the children get more and more. Toys and plastic start taking over the whole house, but these parents think: “What’s there to do? This is just how it goes. I guess I’m stuck with this stuff.” There is a choice, though.
When these parents have feelings of wanting to get rid of some of the mountains of plastic, the guilt over depriving their children of a single thing stops them.
Often, even when the kids stop showing interest in stuff, the parents keep it “just in case” the child will show interest again. To these parents, 15 minutes of play every other month is enough justification. They ignore the truth that if one piece of plastic wasn’t available for those 15 minutes, the child would have found something else to do.
Children don’t need a million options, because children have imaginations. Imagination is a beautiful thing that turns anything into something fun! Imagination and creativity are the foundations of intelligence. Children need a chance to build their imaginations and their brains.
Many times it isn’t the kids that are pleading to keep the stuff. It is the parents bringing their own clutter issues into the mix and choosing for the child, to keep things cluttered. They’ll say:
- I’m saving it for future kids. It’s normal to save a few things, but the “future kid” will have birthdays and holidays as well. In these cases, these children end up with even more stuff then they can really play with.
- All these toys were very expensive. Use the cost as motivation to stop spending so much, but what something once cost is not a good enough reason to keep it.
- I have so many good memories watching my kids play with this. The good memories you get to keep no matter what. Take a picture if you’re worried you’ll forget something.
What are you teaching your children by keeping everything?
You’re teaching: Stuff matters more than a clean and organized environment. Their needs or potential needs come ahead of the family’s collective need to have a less cluttered home. Stuff matters more than saving money, more than living in a comfortable home. You need stuff to be happy.
Is that how you really feel about stuff? Is that what you want to teach your children about stuff?
Truth: Too Much is Impossible To Clean
Letting your children live surrounded by too much stuff means that they will either spend practically their entire childhood cleaning up or they will never be able to adequately clean up. And really, it will be the second thing. You can not adequately clean up with too much stuff. It is too hard to clean around and just too time-consuming!
The Rule of Thumb
Parents ask me when you know your child has an okay amount of stuff.
The rule of thumb is: can they clean their room quickly and without drama? If not, keep decluttering until they can. (Or until you can, if you’re dealing with a baby/toddler.)
You’re not doing your child favors by letting them keep everything. While you work in your kids rooms, help them let things go, and be willing to let go yourself.
Decluttering can be hard, but it is one of the most rewarding things. You can do this and your kids can handle it.
For more help, read Guiding Children to Declutter.
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